REVIEW: ‘Harley Quinn Annual 2021,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Harley Quinn Annual 2021 #1 - But Why Tho

Harley Quinn Annual 2021 #1 is published by DC Comics. Written by Stephanie Phillips. The artists are David LaFuente, Marco Failla and Jon Sommariva. The colourist is Michael Muerto and the letters are by AndWorld Design.

In an extended issue, the comic actually opens with Harley Quinn’s friends Kevin and Solomon Grundy. They are fighting Mr. Freeze, and when they are defeated, the real story is revealed. Harley Quinn has been captured by the new villain, Keepsake. As an old acquaintance of the Joker, the two have a secret history. He is dangerous and Harley must be found. To do so, Kevin and Grundy must visit some of Gotham’s most legendary villains and killers, taking them on a dangerous path too.

The plot of this comic is fun and fantastic in its structure. It works backward for much of the story, the mystery of what truly happened hidden for so much of its duration. Phillips uncovers the plot well, leaving hints for what is yet to come. Harley Quinn Annual 2021 #1 uses its large page count sufficiently. The pace is fast enough to keep the reader interested whilst giving each scene time to flourish. The story moves between Kevin having a conversation with many of DC’s most infamous baddies. The light and comedic tone is frequent and the action scenes are full of excitement. One of the best aspects about this annual is that it contains important elements from the main series that have been hinted at and expanding them. And when we leave it, the consequences will be felt when the series continues.

The characters shine through the masterful dialogue. Phillips is terrific at conversation. The speeches have poetry and patterns, the flow of them allowing the readers’ eyes to breeze through them and absorb the power that they have. Kenny is the true star of the annual. He hasn’t been seen interacting with other established characters yet, and now he gets to talk to so many of them. He is a superb device for bouncing off of other characters and allows the other person in the discussion to self-aggrandise. Arrogant figures such as Cheshire and Freeze are appreciative of this and will reveal their personalities in great fashion. Kevin is one of the best new characters in comics and his double act with Harley is incredible.

As for Harley, she is brilliant in this annual as well. When threatened, she has to ability to be scary. Especially when her traumatic past is brought up. Her dialogue in this issue varies from empowering pep talks to giggle-inducing wisecracks and insults. She bounces off of Keepsake just as well as she does Kevin, the friction electrifying the atmosphere. Her arc in the second half of the annual is absolutely stunning in its power as this wonderful character continues to define her own identity under this wonderful writer.

In a short amount of time, Keepsake has proven himself to be an impressive and dynamic new character. His gimmick provides for some brilliant possibilities and his connection to the Joker makes him a painful thorn for Harley. But he clearly has upset many other members of Gotham’s underworld which gives him license to be used in other books.

The art is superb. The three different artists are a great idea as it allows for variation between the scenes. As Kevin visits the various characters a new artist takes over and makes it seem like a different world. It is brilliant to see the three creators take the same characters and give their own unique take on them inside the same book. Some excel at the action and movement, for example, Failla, whilst others have incredibly detailed and expressive faces. The shift happens mid-scene sometimes but it isn’t jarring at all. The art team have an awesome synergy and their styles work well together. The different villains all show their personalities visually just as much as they do through speech. 

The fight scenes and action have an epic sense of movement and the energy that vibrates from this comic. Harley’s new look that she creates for a special occasion makes her look incredible, very different from any other Quinn we know. This is also the first time we have seen Kevin rendered by other artists, which is an important feat.

One of the staples of ensuring the synergy around the art is the colour artist  Muerto is excellent withing Harley Quinn Annual 2021 #1, as they evolve and adapt just as much as the art. To fit a particular character or artist the palette shifts. For, Mr. Freeze, there is a lot of light blues and greys. For Harley playing at a skatepark, the colourist uses pastel shades. But like with the art, the changes in the colours are not unsettling and are instead very fun. The lettering is fantastic. There is a lot of dialogue but AndWorld Design places it well and it is always easy to read. Little affectations in some of the words give the text an occasional dynamism. 

Harley Quinn Annual 2021 #1 is a superb representative of the whole series. The book is fun and hilarious and meaningful and energetic. Phillips has made this character their own and is relishing the world they are creating. They are an awesome writer and the techniques and expertly woven dialogue show incredible craft. The interchanging of the art and the evolution of the visuals show a constant change within the comic that maintains interest. This comic has a personality and a soul that makes reading it a delight.

Harley Quinn Annual 2021 #1 is available where comics are sold.

Harley Quinn Annual 2021 #1
5

TL;DR

Harley Quinn Annual 2021 #1 is a superb representative of the whole series. The book is fun and hilarious and meaningful and energetic. Phillips has made this character their own and is relishing the world they are creating. They are an awesome writer and the techniques and expertly woven dialogue show incredible craft. The interchanging of the art and the evolution of the visuals show a constant change within the comic that maintains interest. This comic has a personality and a soul that makes reading it a delight.